This is a reflection from a few years ago. I thought I would include it in this series. It’s quite lengthy but I hope it’s beneficial!
So, today on my way to work I was inspired to put up a new post. And what caused this moment of inspiration you may ask? The cold weather! Yes, the cold weather! O how gentle was that breeze! As it hit my face, nipped at my cheeks, and sent a chill down my spine! I wanted to cry out: How excellent is winter! How excellent is winter!
….I didn’t because well, I would simply look like an unfortunate soul who lost all her marbles, but you get my point. I ❤ winter. This past summer up to the ending of last week, we have been experiencing one heatwave after another. It goes without saying, the summers and their feisty heat-tantrums simply do not agree with me!
Alhamdulilah, the signs of winter are ever nearing and I couldn’t be happier.
Today one of my very best friends texted me and mentioned how beautiful the sky and landscape looked in the early morning hours (around Fajr). She is a nature enthusiast just like me. Her text reminded me of how the Elderly Folk in the community always reminisce on the animals, trees, landscapes, etc in the Old Country (Somalia). The title I chose: “geedkii ku yaalay….miyaad xusuusataa?” roughly translates into “that tree in……do you remember it?” I kid you not, this is what all the Awoowes (grandfathers) and Ayeeyos (grandmothers) say. Even the Aunts and Uncles can be found reminiscing on a particular well or tree located in this exact place where they all remember. What ensues is a round of ‘ahh-ing’, sighing and recollecting on stories attached to the said landmark/animal/location. The hottest topics are by far camels. Those darling creatures just capture the heart of Somalis like nobody’s business. I think sometimes the camels are cherished more than children (I kid, don’t sue a Sister). Anywho I digress. Back to the original point, when I was younger I would roll my eyes and think, ‘Oh not that tree again’, but now I appreciate the thought pattern behind the remembering of that tree and the tree itself!
Here is what I gathered:
The Thought: I believe on one side the Elders are trying to draw with memories and words an invisible bridge to the home they always knew, in hopes that they can cross this bridge and be back in the comfort and joy of their previous life (even it be in their mind). So the tree represents familiarity, the shade it provided tranquility, the camels represent stability and the blue skies, gardens and luscious fruit represent the bounties of a life once lived to the fullest. One lived without the strange sense of not belonging, without the weak and impoverished state of mind and body and without the all-encompassing fear of what can go wrong next and worse yet not knowing how to react to that unknown event. I remember on many occasions my mom would make her own journey to this bridge. One time I was eating a mango and remarked on how delicious it tasted. My mom in reply said, ‘if only you saw the mangoes that grow in Somalia, they are the size of three fists and can satisfy your hunger for the whole day’. I reflect upon that incident and realize my mother wasn’t just talking smack on American mangoes (!), she was comparing the entire life here in America compared to back home. In her mind, Somalia is the epitome of perfection and in it there was no need unfilled. Even though we were not well-off, we were content. In this new nation, all she sees is longing for more and more. In her thoughts, nothing quite matches the quality or the quantity of anything back home. I was talking to one of my Eedos (paternal aunties) in the Masjid once and we starting chatting about the state of affairs (ok seriously, I really enjoy being in the company of older people). She mentioned some of the things which were bothering her physically, the seemingly never ending illnesses which she claimed would be healed with the drink of camel’s milk back home. I observed her and noticed a look of sadness wash over her whole face as she said, ‘this is not home’. I get it now. All of these years I was slightly annoyed by the talk of what seemed to be useless things (I mean who dreams about a camel right?), but now I know with a certain knowledge where these wise elders are coming from.
The Tree: Another aspect of the recollections of the Elderly in the Somali community is the actual focus on nature and animals and many of Allaah’s creations. I frequently ponder over this verse from Surat al-Imraan and Surat al-Baqarah, let’s draw some connections after reading inshaAllaah:
“Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, and the ships which sail through the sea with that which is of use to mankind, and the water (rain) which Allaah sends down from the sky and makes the earth alive therewith after its death, and the moving (living) creatures of all kinds that He has scattered therein, and in the veering of winds and clouds which are held between the sky and the earth, are indeed Ayaat (proofs, evidences, signs, etc.) for people of understanding.”
And Allah says,
“Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah standing, sitting and lying down on their sides and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and earth [saying] “Our Lord! You have not created [all] these without purpose, glory to You! Give us salvation from the torment of the fire” [Qur’an 3:190-191]
So if you sit in the company of adults (who were born in Somalia), you realize much of the memories they fall back on have strong illustrations of nature. Stories aside, even walking next to an Elderly person you will hear many comments on the sky, the wind blowing, the rains coming, the warmth of the sun, etc. It’s like having a Discovery Channel commentator at your side! And don’t even get me started on watching Discovery Channel Documentaries, especially those on Animals. If you are anything like my parents, every new documentary that comes on has to be watched and with the whole family. So going back to the verses, I see that Somalis do in fact act upon them by mentioning the praises of Allaah’s creation at every chance. The camels included!
And if we reflect deeply, we see that the poorest of men like the Bedouin and the richest, wealthiest man all desire a close connection to nature. This is why the Bedouin’s favorite time is that spent with his animals and this is why the wealthy man’s house sits right next to the beach or why he purchases vast amounts of open land and sometimes even Islands. It is all to appreciate and be connected to the creations of Allaah and the Creator Himself, whether they know that or not. It’s the fitrah (natural disposition) at work. SubhanaAllah.
May Allaah give us insight, wisdom and patience to reflect upon His Creations, ameen!!
Stay tuned for more reflections!